THUMBS UP to Daniel Johnson for an incisive Daily Telegraph column (August 21, 1999) about revelations in Commentary magazine that Edward Said, famed Columbia University professor and alleged Palestinian refugee, had largely fabricated his accounts of a childhood spent in Jerusalem. In his analysis of the implications of the Said exposé, Johnson does not mince words. He writes:
The truth about Said’s youth is not shameful, except in the context of post-1948 Palestinian politics, in which the cult of victimhood is the basis of nationhood, the enemies of Israel (such as Nasser) must be friends, and to question the mythical version of history is construed as betrayal. The uncompromising hostility that Said has adopted towards Israel, and now even Arafat, is an obvious form of overcompensation by an armchair general who has lived far from war, intifada or even censorship. There are few more comfortable billets in the world than a chair at Columbia. Said needed to share his people’s suffering, and past suffering was the only kind available. It is also painless. Said, it seems, was so much in love with the idea of exile that he simply had to create one for himself.
In the wake of publication of the Commentary article, many Said defenders attacked the author of the piece, Justus Weiner, ignoring entirely the evidence presented. Johnson was among the relative few to write critically of Said’s startling self-invention.